Monday, July 31, 2017


Tell us a bit about the idea / inspiration / Mother Goose research.
Before fifth grader, Pixie Piper finds out that she’s a descendant of Mother Goose, she understands that her mother is sort of an amateur scholar on the subject. Mrs. Piper has shelves full of Mother Goose books, and in the course of the story, Pixie will come to understand why.
My mother seems to have had a special connection to Mother Goose as well. She’s the real inspiration for my Pixie Piper books. Although she spent her first seven years in an orphanage, she somehow knew how important it was to read babies and young children. I can still remember the Little Golden Book of Mother Goose Rhymes she’d purchased for me in the supermarket. And I’m pretty sure it was because my mom recited nursery rhymes to me so often, that I became a rhymer before I could write.
The great Mother Goose scholar, Iona Opie says the rhymes are “mysterious fragments from our shared memory: long-ago laughter of little meaning and echoes of ancient spells...”  I agree!  I believe every woman who ever made up a tune or a rhyme for her child is a bit of a Mother Goose.  
Once I discovered that no single person was the ‘mother of nursery rhymes’, I was free to create my own history. Yet the task was daunting. I wanted to do the character of Mother Goose justice – to honor her. Gradually, she began to live in my imagination. I gave her rhymes the power to grant wishes and her hands the ability to bake marvelous cakes. After Mother Goose stumbled into combining her rhymes with cakes, the demand for them became insatiable. She actually had to go into hiding to escape from the most powerful and greedy people who wanted her to bake wishing cakes solely for them.

Summer Snowball (nonedible) - Recipe Included
Where / how did you come up with "magical baking"? Are you a foodie? Do you cook a lot with your kids?

In book two, Pixie Piper and the Matter of the Batter, Pixie spends the summer at Golden Goose Farm, where the Goose Ladies (descendants of Mother Goose) teach her the secrets of magical baking.  It was a lot of fun to invent the cakes, the magical baking instruments, the rhymes that went into them, and those mysterious batter ‘spirits’. Then my editor and I both thought of having an appendix of recipes at the back of the book. It sounded great, except for one thing—I’d never been much of a baker! At dinners with friends, I was happy to provide an hors d’oeuvre or a side dish, but never a dessert.
Luckily though, I have friends who are bakers. I organized a virtual test kitchen and asked them to create child-friendly recipes for the cakes I’d imagined. They came up with no-bake snickerdoodle cupcakes, flying biscuits, a super-chocolatey birthday wishing cake, and a tricky reversing cake to foil a villain. I created the rhymes to go with them.

Okay, really--the toilet museum. You gotta tell us about that.

Poor Pixie! I really did load her up with a lot of burdens. As a child, I had a friend who lived across the street from a junkyard. And the apartment I lived in faced the alley with its row of trashcans and yowling cats. So, I have to admit the idea of a toilet museum came pretty easily. And once I’d thought of it, I checked the Internet to see if any such thing existed. To my delight, I found the Sulabh International Museum of Toilets in New Delhi, India, which explores the history of hygiene and sanitation.  After viewing its site and doing some further research, I created my own version, the Winged Bowl Museum of Rare, Historical, and Unique Toilets. The King Louis throne toilet at Winged Bowl is based on one owned by King Louis XIV of France.

Catch up with Annabelle Fisher and grab your own copy of PIXIE PIPER!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Having a Summer Romance with Your Writing - Part Two

Last month, on this blog, I declared my intention to have a torrid summer romance - with my writing. I guiltily decided it would be an illicit summer romance: I would cheat on my barely begun book under contract and have a writing fling, writing something just for fun, something just for me.

We're now halfway through the summer, and I haven't done that.

For I decided, full of sheepish apologies, to slink back to my cast-off work-in-progress and find a way to fall in love with it instead. Sure, we had problems, all relationships do. But my book and I had made a commitment to each other. Couldn't we find some way to work things out, so we could stay true to each other, after all?

And we did.

In The Writing Life, Annie Dillard says that when you are stuck in a book and can't force yourself to keep writing it, "the trouble is either of two things. Either the structure has forked, so the narrative, or the logic, has developed a hairline fracture that will shortly split it up the middle - or you are approaching a fatal mistake. What you had planned will not do. If your pursue your present course, the book will explode or collapse, and you do not know about it yet, quite." She compares the balking writer to a construction worker who intuits danger ahead and simply refuses to go out onto the construction site.

Annie tells us,when this hapens, this is what we must do: "Acknowledge, first, that you cannot do nothing." You must analyze your book's structure to find precisely where it has gone fatally wrong: "Something completely necessary is false or fatal. Once you find it, and if you can accept the finding, of course it will mean starting again."

I took Annie's advice and did some hard thinking to figure out just why I was so reluctant to move ahead on my poor abandoned book. I reworked its premise, rewrote chapter one to bring the central dramatic question of the story into much clearer focus, threw away the two chapters after that, and wrote two new ones that I happen to think are pretty darned wonderful.

Oh, book of mine, I love you again! I no longer want to cheat on you with some other imaginary project. I want to spend the remaining days of summer in your sweet company. We emerged from Annie Dillard's blunt, no-nonsense marraige counseling - this thing needs radical fixing, darlings! - and now we can go forward to savor the rest of the summer together.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017


Since July is the seventh month of the year, and a summer month as well, today’s post will get you outside and offer some tricks to deepen character development.

S unshine and fresh air are proven to boost endorphins and brain function.  Take your “homebody” character outdoors as you go for a walk and see what happens.  What will he notice or ignore?  How does he react when you remove all the comforts of home and he has to use his wits to survive in a foreign environment? 

E njoy something you’ve never tried before.  Learn exotic dancing, origami, or scuba diving.  Try a new food.  Teach a new skill to someone else.  Was it easy or hard?  Now teach the same thing to your character.  Is she a willing learner or a reluctant one?  How does she react to changes big and small?  

V ary your routine.  Shaking things up in our own world, can shake things loose and get new ideas flowing.  Now turn your characters’ routine upside down.  How does he cope?  Does he fall apart or find inner strength he never knew he had?

E xplore.  Any new place or thing.  A church, cemetery, wooded area, hole in the ground, cave, underneath a bridge, abandoned building, mountain top.  What senses are aroused and what feelings come to the surface in such a place?  Peace, fear, sadness.  What would your character do in such a place?  Chances are, the same character might react differently to being alone in the settings below. 

N otice things you’ve passed or ignored before.  What’s under a rock, hiding in a corner, hanging on a wall?  Be a spy and look for details in mundane things.  Now have your character find a common object that she can use in a surprising way.

Okay…so this is really only FIVE suggestions.  Care to share two of your own ideas for shaking up characters?

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Seven Lines from Seven Wise Writers

from Jody Feldman

Once again, I was fortunate enough to attend the SCBWI National Conference in Los Angeles. The party just ended, but even at this point in my career, I learned so much that should serve to enrich my writing, permanently. Here are seven lines that caught my attention and may inspire you in writing and/or life. (Note that those lines not in quotes may have been paraphrased.)

1.       “You have to dream so big it scares the hell out of you.” –Vanessa Brantley Newton
2.       Diversity in your writing should be “purposeful in its portrayal of complexity.” –Zareen Jaffrey
3.       We have to do mean things to our characters in order to feel their redemption. –Alex Gino
4.       “It’s no laughing matter if there’s no laughing matter.” –Marvin Terban
5.       “Start with a pie in the face, then say something smart.” –Chris Grabenstein
6.       You should be obsessed with your story. It should be waking you up at night. –Stephanie Garber
7.       I think I’m done writing, except there’s this one idea ... –Judy Blume

Monday, July 10, 2017

July Theme: Lucky-7 Challenge
By Marcia Thornton Jones

July. The 7th month of the year.

Lots of things seem to come in sevens. Seven planets. Seven continents. Seven seas. Seven days of the week. Maybe that’s why many consider the number ‘7’ to be lucky. But sometimes, luck doesn’t come with a roll of the dice or the deal of the hand. Sometimes, you have to make your own luck. That’s why I challenge you to make July a Lucky-7 month with this writing exercise.

Don’t have time for ‘something else’? That’s the beauty of this challenge. You do have time because all you have to do is write one sentence a day for a week.

That’s it. Just one sentence for each day of the week.

Have an idea that's been pestering you, but you don't want to neglect your current work-in-progress? This exercise is a great way to explore an idea or genre. Use it to ease into a new story, play around with themes, or to write a poem.

Have you let your journaling lapse, and you’ve been questioning the meaning of life? If so, get in touch with what’s important to you by highlighting each day’s standout event, a lesson you learned, a memory from your childhood, a difference you made in someone’s life, or something that made you feel joy.

Then again, perhaps you’re like me and writing keeps getting pushed to the back burner and you are fairly certain that your muse has packed her bags and boarded a cruise ship for Hawaii without you. Or maybe it's not that you've lost your inspiration, but that the kids are home and vacation plans are cluttering your schedule and the pool keeps distracting you. If, for whatever reason, you feel that something is pulling you away from your writing time and story, then use the Lucky-7 Challenge to at least stay connected to the story you want to write. Try it for a new scene, a character description, a plot synopsis, or a quick dialogue exchange.

One sentence a day.

We can all do this--no matter what life is throwing at us--we can all commit to writing one sentence a day. And you know what? By the end of the week, I have a feeling you’ll be surprised at what you can say in seven sentences. And then you know what you can do? Start over the next week!

Good luck!

Saturday, July 8, 2017


"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men CHARACTERS are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator [The Author] with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

I mean no disrespect to one of our county's most sacred documents. I think it provides a useful metric for writers. Our characters SHOULD have rights. I'm not one of those writers who believes that her characters have minds of their own. But I do believe that if I create them well enough, they DECLARE THEIR INDEPENDENCE from whatever plot I might have planned and the book is all the better for it.  

Let's see whether I gave my most recent character, Clint McCool, these unalienable Rights. 

LIFE -- The scientific definition of life is having a capacity for growth, reaction to stimuli, and reproduction. We'll skip reproduction (although we certainly hope for sequels and movie rights). But our characters should react to whatever trouble we throw at them. And we hope they grow because of that. Sorry, Clint McCool, but it was absolutely necessary to ban you from the movie set and make you wear a dress. That adversity made you a real hero.

LIBERTY -- the power of choice.  Wait, isn't that contradictory? Didn't I just say that for Clint's own good, he HAD to put on a dress? Actually, at that point in the story, he had the power to choose. But if he wanted to be in the movie, he had to wear the dress. 

PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS -- They need to WANT something and go after it, even if they don't have the best idea of what will bring them happiness. Clint McCool WANTS TO BE IN THAT MOVIE. He nearly destroys it and ruins his friendships in his effort to get what he wants. Until he grows, makes a better choice, and saves the day!

Here he is -- outside of the books! (Jessika von Innerebner, the illustrator of Clint McCool, made that magic possible.) But I believe that together we created an Independent Character.